Published: 12 January 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY
A MONEY-LAUNDERING trial has collapsed at a cost of thousands of pounds after Camden police mistakenly deleted material that was due to be used in the prosecution’s evidence.
Four defendants walked free from court with no charges held against them after police revealed they had “inadvertently” destroyed paperwork connected with the case.
Defence solicitors said the lost documents, receipts that proved ownership of goods confiscated by police, would have proven their clients’ innocence in court.
Samira Noor-Khan, from law firm Hodge, Jones and Allen, said: “I’m angry about this because it’s been going on since 2010 and no evidence has been supplied.
People have been held in custody during some of this time and had their freedom limited.
“Charges have been changed and the police have seemed confused.
We were asking ‘where are these receipts? where are these receipts?’ and only a few days before the trial were we told that they had been destroyed.”
The case relates to four members of the Maughan family arrested in the wake of a police raid on the travellers’ site in Carol Street, Camden Town.
Charges were made and amended against John Maughan and three relatives before the case collapsed at the start of what had been scheduled to be a four-week trial at Blackfriars Crown Court.
The cost of the investigation would have ratcheted up for a series of previous court hearings connected with the case, while preparations for a trial that never took place was funded by legal aid.
Ms Noor-Khan said: “This really is a sad state of affairs.
There has been a monumental amount of work put in to get to the stage where we are at now, and all the time the receipts that were destroyed would have proved John and his relatives’ innocence in court.”
The court was told on Monday that all of the defendants should be considered not guilty.
Superintendent Roger Smalley said Camden police followed a general Met policy of “clearing property” held in investigations as quickly as possible, but in this case the problem was an error.
Superintendent Smalley said: “We can confirm that at a hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012, at Blackfriars Crown Court, the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence in a money-laundering case upon police discovering that a documentary exhibit had been inadvertently destroyed.”
He added: “Unfortunately, it would appear that due to administrative errors, a set of documents had been destroyed.
This was extremely disappointing, resulting in a case not being able to be put forward for the court’s consideration.
I am ensuring that we review our processes and systems to prevent a recurrence in the future.”
Supt Smalley added: “The policy of the Metropolitan Police Service is that property taken or retained by police should be cleared at the earliest opportunity and that only in exceptional circumstances should property be retained for more than 12 months.
Clearly where there are ongoing cases, where exhibits are required, this would be required as exceptional.”